DURING the last decade, we seem to have suddenly become aware of the need for public relations in every field of activity, especially industry. The economy has become more complex and social tensions have increased. The public enterprises are facing increasing criticism and are being called upon to justify their very existence. In the ultimate analysis, everyone is trying to resolve the rapidly emerging social tensions without basically changing the existing institutional frameworks. The answer to this vital problem is sought in public relations.
2. PR- A Fire Brigade Operation?
Let us face it: PR is still considered a fire-brigade operation and just a communication problem. This limited understanding of PR permeates practically every gathering of public relations practitioners. As a result, there is very little discussion on problems, policies and practical aspects of public relations activities. On the other hand, there is a great deal of whining and moaning about the lack of status for PR practitioners and non-recognition of their importance by management.
It has therefore become necessary to understand what PR practitioners in Public Sector Undertakings (PSU’s) expect of their top management.
3. PR in modern times: Objectives-
One should keep in mind the following objectives while dealing with PR in modern times- to stress the importance of PR in public enterprises, to define its role in relation to the organization and the public and to emphasize the vital need for a planned and sustained two-way communication and effective PR techniques. The fact that the complexity and character of public enterprises pose special problems in PR is a question of utmost relevance. Furthermore, it is not always easy to create a proper image unless one identifies oneself with the basic objective and its realization. In that essence, public relations, if it is not to be an empty phrase, should be considered primarily as the practical expression of social responsibility and only then talked about.
4. Communication and PR-
Communication is only a tool of public relations. This is really what is meant by the oft-repeated statement: "Ninety per cent doing good and ten per cent talking about it". And yet, the only "doing good" that is discussed in modern times is from the commercial point of view. This is understandable, because the ideological attack on the public sector is presented from this angle. Despite the fact that the various studies have quoted as placing greater emphasis on the non-commercial objectives of public enterprises than on profitability, we overlook this essential fact.
5. Importance of effective performance by the institutions concerned-
Effective performance by the institutions concerned is very important. There can be no effective performance unless the social economic and even political objectives of public enterprises are not only clearly defined but understood by all concerned. In modern times, there is no discussion on PR policies for public enterprises while there exists an immense need for research. Besides, there is no attempt to define the universe of PR communication for the public-sector institutions. The problems cover only information channels and that too without considering the problem of media in a country- vastly illiterate like India.
Thus, considering various arguments put forth, one cannot escape the conclusion that the role of public enterprises in our economy is not really understood by either the top management or the PR practitioners. How can one even think of social responsibility and involvement in the basic objectives of public enterprises?
The elevation of Public Relations to the level of a scientific discipline and securing its recognition as an integral part of modern management is a major problem. It is, per se. a difficult task, because the results of PR cannot often be immediately measured in concrete terms. but only in the long run, and at moments of crisis.
Public Relations for public enterprises is a far more difficult task. The public sector in the past has ignored even the communication aspect of public relations. Adverse criticism has made top management and Government aware of the need at least to provide information. But this information, must also be valid and relevant to the people concerned. It must be available at the right place and the right time. For example, the workers at a certain factory spend 16 hours of their life outside the factory and the community outside molds their opinion.
PR communication for the public sector is really development communication. It demands an interpretation of facts in terms of human needs, in terms of their own experience. This cannot be achieved unless the performance of the institutions concerned improves and there is planned and dynamic PR activity at every level. Without such a development, conferences. higher status for PR practitioners. bigger budgets, standing committee of public sector PROs, joint campaigns by allied institutions, exposing PR personnel to broader general management problems and other such concrete suggestions that emerged from the conference would be of little avail. It is high time we started to take public relations a little more seriously. In this context, the responsibility of the public relations practitioners in the public enterprises is all the greater. It is they who will have to emerge as the pacesetters.
BIO- Bhavik Sarkhedi is Author of The Weak Point Dealer & 'Will You Walk A Mile?'